Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Death of Cities & Poverty

What amazing me is how the death of great American cities is nothing to worry about. Just as it's no big deal to have 10% unemployment, which is now expected to continue for years. If you add in people who are underemployed or have given up looking for work, the unemployment rate is about 17%. That is one person in six. One family in eight is on food stamps. The number of Americans living in poverty is rising. It's now 15%, almost one person in six.

The poverty line in the US is $22,000 for a family of four. Severe poverty is half of this: $11,000 for a family of four. And severe poverty has risen even more sharply than poverty in general. It is now 6.3% of the population. That is one person -- one family -- in fifteen.

I pay $750 a month for an apartment. This is pretty close to the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the Twin Cities. $11,000 is $916 a month. If I had to live on $11,000, I would have $166 a month after paying my rent. This is assuming no taxes at all. Obviously, there would be no money for any kind of health insurance or a car or much of anything except food. My current food budget for one person is around $250 a month.

Now, imagine a family of four living on $916 a month. Where would they live? A homeless shelter, I assume. Or (Patrick says) a friend or relative's basement. Their health care would be Medicaid or hospital emergency rooms. They might not be able to get to a food shelf, due to lack of transportation. They would almost certainly use food stamps.

You can't cook in a shelter, so all the food you buy will have to be already prepared in some way. This will make it more expensive, and it makes US government figures on how much it costs to feed a family of four ridiculous.

The Maplewood, MN Family Shelter provides three meals day. Families can stay up to 30 days. Is their poverty likely to go away after 30 days?

The Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul serves three meals a day. However, many of the people using the center are a bit scary. You might not want to take your kids there. The meals are things like spaghetti and hot bologna.

If the family is living in a basement, they will be able to cook. In that case, their food costs with food stamps will be something like $200-$300 a month.

That leaves $616-$716 for housing. Not enough to rent.

We're not even talking about clothes, school supplies, a car so you can get to work, money for prescription drugs, money for toys at Christmas.

Public housing in the Twin Cities is full up. Per the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Minneapolis is able to place 120 new families a year. This is entirely due to turnover.

For that matter, the shelters are full and turning people away.

One family in fifteen is living like this. Apparently, this is not a big deal.


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